Dana smokes cigarettes. Dana is gross. By using some very advanced mathematics—or, actually, by reading any health studies written in the last fifty or so years—we can deduce that cigarettes are also gross.
And cigarettes are what ultimately make our dear Dana Matherson go up in smoke. (Hey-o.)
Dana's two favorite activities are "smoking and beating up smaller kids" (1.14). So it's almost poetic justice when Roy—one of those smaller kids that Dana likes to feed knuckle sandwiches—tricks Dana into sneaking onto the construction site in order to steal a carton of cigarettes.
But Dana isn't the only character who enjoys cancer sticks. Mullet Fingers' mom, Lonna, makes her grand entrance with "blue smoke curled from a cigarette poised in flittering fingertips" (14.34). Talk about a nasty first impression.
And the connection that Lonna and Dana share extends beyond their love of smokes.
Now, we all know that Lonna Leep doesn't stand a chance at winning Mother of the Year because of the way she treats Mullet Fingers. Lonna is one of Mullet Fingers' major adversaries—the two of them sharing a negative symbol like cigarettes just drives the point home.
Couldn't Hiaasen have used another symbol to get this point across? Probably. But the imagery of cigarettes alludes to more than just nasty breath and yellow chompers. Cigarettes have a two-part process: inhaling and exhaling. Bad stuff goes in, bad stuff comes out.
And we're not just talkin' about smokes here—both Dana and Lonna say some awful things about Roy, Mullet Fingers, and Beatrice.
For example, Dana's always verbally abusing Roy. If he's not busy calling Roy "cowgirl", he's threatening Roy by saying, "I'm gonna be your worst nightmare" (8.85). And Lonna Leep isn't much better. She calls her own son a "little monster" (10.52) and tells her husband that Beatrice is "dangerous and crazy" (18.88).
Again: nasty things go in their mouths, and nasty things come right back out.